Summary: What do you do after taking steps to obey God?

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After The River

Joshua 4

In Joshua 3 we read the story of the crossing of the Jordan River by the Israelite people. After that crossing they were in the promised land. The promised land represented the gifts that God wishes to give his children. God wants to share gifts with us. Those gifts include salvation, peace, forgiveness, direction, and the like. God’s gifts are unique to each individual.

Before the Israelites could receive God’s gift they had to cross a barrier, the Jordan River. Even so, God’s people in every age must cross barriers and rivers. It is a wonderful feeling to cross life’s barriers. It is a wonderful feeling to take hold of God’s blessings and receive His gifts. Once you cross a barrier and arrive at your destination what happens then? We use a phrase that may well describe a question that is on many people’s minds: “What now?” What do you do after you become a Christian? What do you do when you discover God’s will? This is “after the river” living. We learn from the Israelites what to do after crossing the river.

So, what do we do after the river? Joshua 4 answers that question. We find three expectations in this chapter.

The first expectation is: Be Ready to Honor God. After crossing the river, God instructed the Israelites to select 12 men from the nation of Israel, one from each tribe. These representatives were each to carry a rock from the middle of the Jordan River. They were to select a rock from the spot where the priests stood holding the “ark of the covenant” in the middle of the river. After selecting a rock they were to stack them in the location where they spent their first night after crossing the river. That place came to be known as Gilgal. This was to be a memorial. This was their way of reflecting on God’s blessings and to honor Him. They were to honor God by erecting a memorial consisting of the twelve stones. The same principle is true for us. God expects us to honor Him with our lives.

Ways we can honor God.

We honor God as we worship Him publicly and privately. The word praise, which is another word for worship, comes from a Latin word meaning “value” or “price.” Thus, to give praise to God is to proclaim His merit or worth.

We honor God as we take communion together. When we take communion we are proclaiming Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

We honor God as we follow the Lord in baptism. When we are baptized we proclaim the new life that Jesus has given us.

We honor the Lord by giving a tithe of our income. When we give our financial resources to God we are honoring Him. (See Prov. 3:9)

We honor the Lord by serving other people.

The point of mentioning five ways of honoring God is to emphasize that following God is a life process. Honoring God requires your life, not just a part of it or a corner in it.

The second expectation is: be ready to do battle. (notice verses 12-13) These people came up out of the Jordan River armed and ready for battle. There are a couple of lessons we learn from observing their battle preparations.

The first lesson is that once you choose to follow God, to obey Him and do His will does not guarantee a trouble free life. You must be ready to endure trials. The command to endure is a frequent New Testament command. (Refer to I Cor. 9:26; I Tim. 6:12; James 4:1)

The second lesson we learn from this story is to be armed. Being a Christian does not guarantee trouble free living. You must be armed to do battle.(Refer to Eph. 6:11 and I Pet. 4:1)


A PBS Special covering the events that led up to the "Battle of the Bulge" in WWII revealed some interesting insights. It was the autumn of 1944 and Germany had been beaten back behind its borders. The Nazi war machine was in tatters and repeated bombing raids by the Allies all but assured that Hitler’s forces would never rise again. Around the perimeter of Germany’s borders, the Allies spread a thin line of forces that one person observed was so scattered that a man could slip between its lines without being observed. All across Europe, there was celebration. Parties, dances, speeches all rejoicing in Germany’s defeat. The war was effectively over. The only problem was that somebody forgot to tell Germany.

Even as his forces were being shattered and driven back, Hitler was devising a plan for one last onslaught. Underground factories churned out more weapons, armament and ammunition, more of Germany’s young and old men were conscripted and trained for war, and as Europe rejoiced, Hitler planned. His goal was not to drive back the Allies, as much as it was to divide the British to the North and Americans to the South and so demoralize them that they would sue for peace on his terms.

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